Guerrieri: How concrete and steel built baseball

From SABR member Vince Guerrieri at Deadspin on July 8, 2019:

The opening of Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1923, was a triumph for baseball.

It was a triumph for the Yankees, of course, who had started their major-league life in Baltimore, as the nascent American League was afraid to challenge the successful, established and beloved New York Giants of the National League. After an uneasy détente was reached (thanks in part to a promise that ownership stakes would be given to a prominent gambler and two city officials), the team moved to New York, first to upper Manhattan’s shabby Hilltop Park and then to the new Polo Grounds, where they were the Giants’ tenants.

Before the 1920 season, the Yankees bought the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for $125,000, the largest price ever for the purchase of a single player in a move regarded as folly at the time. At that price, the Yankees would have to draw a million fans to break even—unheard of at that point. As it turned out, Ruth’s prodigious home runs revolutionized the sport—and drew crowds. In his first year with the Yankees, the team became the first in major league history to draw more than one million fans, relegating the Giants to second fiddle in their own park. The Yankees needed a bigger place of their own—and the Giants were only too happy to have them leave, going so far as to serve them an eviction notice (later rescinded).

The Yankees found a site across the river in the South Bronx for their new ballpark, and even its name—Yankee Stadium, not a “park” or a “field” like its contemporaries—suggested grandiosity. The imposing concrete edifice was the first major-league stadium to have three decks of seats, bringing capacity to a total of 70,000 (there were even plans to fully enclose the stadium for a total of 85,000 seats). Those fans would be able to move quickly into the park thanks to 18 ticket pagodas outside, and circulate freely inside thanks to 20-foot-wide concourses.

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Originally published: July 9, 2019. Last Updated: July 9, 2019.